Catholicism ‘main target’ for religious abuse in Scotland

Roman Catholicism was the focus of abuse in 58 per cent of all charges for religiously motivated hate crime in Scotland last year, according to a study.

The figure was revealed in an analysis of charges in 2010-11.

Protestantism was targeted in 37 per cent of cases, while Judaism and Islam were each the focus in 2 per cent of charges.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

The Scottish Government published the figures as MSPs debate SNP legislation aimed at cracking down on religious sectarianism, particularly linked to football matches.

One-third of the total 693 charges were made in football grounds. Of those, 47 (52 per cent) were at Celtic Park and 24 (27 per cent) were at Ibrox.

First Minister Alex Salmond called for the latest analysis of data, relating to section 75 of the Criminal Justice Scotland Act 2003, to provide more background to the problem.

The figures show the issue is overwhelmingly centred on west central Scotland, with 51% of charges in the Glasgow local authority area. Outside the city, there were high numbers in North Lanarkshire, West Lothian, South Lanarkshire and Falkirk.

Religious hate crime was not recorded in five areas: Aberdeenshire, Shetland, Orkney, Western Isles and East Lothian.

Total charges for religious hate crime have fluctuated over the last five years between 696 and 609. Last year’s total of 693 is 10 per cent up on the previous annual figure.

Police officers were the most common victims, reflecting the frequency of religious abuse made by people after an arrest.

Community Safety Minister Roseanna Cunningham said: “These statistics show the shameful reality of religious hate crime in Scotland. Like racism, this kind of behaviour simply shouldn’t be happening in a modern Scotland but sadly, it seems there are still those who think hatred on the basis of religion is acceptable.

“We need a wholesale change of attitudes, and this new report provides a valuable insight into the nature and scale of religious hate crime across Scotland. It shows that charges for religious hatred are up 10 per cent on last year, to the highest level in four years, and it also shows that a disproportionate number of religious hate crimes are directly linked to football, both in stadiums, on public transport and in bars.

“That is why we have made clear that we will be looking at further wide-ranging actions across society, such as in schools and communities, in addition to legislation to send out a clear message that this behaviour will not be tolerated any longer.”